LAS CRUCES, N.M. -On Tuesday morning, the owner of a Deming, N.M. gun shop, his wife and their two sons were arrested on firearms-smuggling and money-laundering charges in a 30-count indictment unsealed the same day. These arrests were the result of an intense seven-month investigation that was spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and later expanded to include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney's Las Cruces Branch Office.
Rick Reese, 55, the holder of a federal firearms license and owner/operator of Old Ironsides LLC (doing business as "New Deal Shooting Sports" (New Deal)) was arrested Tuesday morning in Las Cruces, N.M. His wife, Terri Reese, 48, and his sons, Ryin Reese, 24, and Remington Reese, 19, all of whom assisted in operating New Deal, were also arrested that morning. All four defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances in the federal courthouse on Sept. 1.
The indictment alleges that, between April 2010 and July 2011, the defendants conspired to make false statements in connection with acquiring firearms and illegally exporting them to Mexico. It also charges them with conspiring unlawfully to launder proceeds from the sales of firearms and ammunition illegally exported from the United States to Mexico. The indictment seeks forfeiture of the firearms and ammunition involved in the defendants' alleged unlawful activities, the proceeds of their alleged unlawful activities, the real property on which New Deal is located, New Deal's assets and licenses, and a money judgment in the amount of $36,000.
According to the indictment, in July and August 2010, Ryin Reese sold 18 firearms to an individual who arranged to smuggle them into Mexico, where they were transferred into the hands of Mexican Cartel members. The indictment further alleges that, on six occasions between April 20 and July 29, 2011, the defendants sold an aggregate of 16 firearms and more than 7,000 rounds of ammunition to a confidential informant and undercover agents with the understanding that the informant and agents intended to illegally smuggle the firearms and ammunition into Mexico. The defendants allegedly removed the ammunition from its original packaging and repackaged the ammunition in black canvas bags to conceal it from law enforcement. The defendants also allegedly assisted the confidential informant and undercover agents in completing ATF firearms transaction records in which the informant and agents falsely represented that they were the actual purchasers of the firearms.
According to the indictment, the firearms sold by the defendants included 27 AK-47-type rifles, three AR-15 rifles, two .50 caliber rifles, and two 9mm pistols, weapons allegedly favored by Mexican Cartels.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, District of New Mexico, and Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge of HIS in El Paso, Texas, announced the arrests.
U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, "Those who sell firearms, knowing that they will be illegally smuggled into Mexico to arm Mexican Cartels, share responsibility for the violence that has been devastating Mexico. This case serves to put firearms dealers on notice that they will be held accountable for any failure to comply with federal firearms laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and to assure the safety of citizens both here and abroad."
"Individuals and businesses involved in smuggling weapons and ammunition to Mexico are contributing to violence and criminal activity," added Oyola-Torres. "Preventing the flow of drugs, weapons, money and other contraband across our borders is a national security priority for HSI."
Federal law enforcement officials first became aware of the defendants' alleged unlawful activities in mid-December 2010. Since that time, no firearms or ammunition sold by the defendants were transferred to Mexico or any non-law enforcement entity. All firearms and ammunition purchased by the confidential informant and undercover agents were retained as evidence.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan Lichvarcik and Michael Nammar. ICE HSI led the investigation with support from ATF, the U.S. Marshal's Service, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, New Mexico State Police, and the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office. A copy of the indictment can be found here.
Charges in indictments are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.